Proper 22 2018
Sometimes I worry about those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. Too often, we seem not to follow. Too often, in our zeal to be right we miss the point.
One of the joys since becoming the rector here has been to see and be part of a church whose goal is to welcome. It is our mission. We are uniquely placed within this diocese. Geographically, we are the center of the diocese. It allows us to make room for people to have a place to meet throughout the diocese. We do not charge fees. We do open our doors to any group who wants a place to meet. We could be no better suited for this than to be part of our mission; to welcome and make room.
I hope we are also seeking to welcome those within this community. I must tell you that I had hoped we could grow in numbers more quickly, but it does not change the reality that we, All Saints’ in Clinton, are also uniquely placed to welcome. There is no litmus test to come here; to be part. I pray that we will live that out. We may be the only church which does not require a litmus test of some kind to come and worship here, and I pray that we will find ways to make room for anyone who wants and finds themselves at our door. Not just black or white but a place where anyone can find sanctuary. Where anyone is welcome to come and worship God. There should be no obstacle to that truth; rich or poor; liberal or conservative, to live out our vocation that truth must be who we seek to be.
I was the assistant at a parish once who said they were welcoming but the truth was they were only welcoming to those who agreed with them theologically and liturgically and most importantly, they welcomed those with means. There was a Sunday in the summer like almost every other Sunday. There were new people, people traveling who would stop by. This particular Sunday, about 10 minutes before the service, a Rolls Royce convertible pulled up. The narthex was a buzz. People whispered, and it seemed like people were tripping over themselves to greet and welcome and seat this couple. I don’t even think they realized what they were doing.
I know that there were other people who came to visit who were never even welcomed; who never saw a smiling face.
Power or assumed power too often is where we look to find our hope. Too often we seek out power and miss the powerless.
The last part of the Gospel focuses on Jesus’ response to the least. People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Jesus, with that action, made a powerful statement about the disciples’ call and ours. It is often easy to tell who is powerful, or at least who believes they are powerful. He took the least and said to them and us unless you understand God’s truth as this child then you will never understand it. God’s kingdom belongs to those who receive God, as they do.
I once was the rector of a parish which had an altar with space underneath it. I was preaching a children’s sermon when one of the children decided to sit in that space. After the service, a person came to me and was upset about the child walking around the altar and sitting under it. I couldn’t understand.
I think this space is for those who represent the least. I think this space is for the children. I think this church is for the unexceptionable and the weak. It is for those who need to know the love of God. It is the space where God welcomes and where we should welcome with all that we are. I know we will not get it right, but I hope we will seem to do it well. I hope we will strive to make this place a sanctuary for those who need God.